The phrase "shareholder value" has surely become one of the great fuzzy pieties of banking, indeed a talisman seeming to protect its wearers against suspicion of complacency.

Sadly, this reassuring article of faith, embraced today by every up-to-date manager and consultant, has a deep flaw. For unless shareholder value can somehow be transmuted into stock price, like base metal into gold, the alchemy is powerless.

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